I, The Meister, love the live concert experience, everything about it from start to finish and attend as many shows as possible, but some events just hold something a little more special than others. Friday, April 29, 2016, at the Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place in Hamilton Ontario, was one of those “stay with you for a long time concert experiences” as Brighton Rock celebrated the 30th Anniversary of their debut album Young, Wild and Free with special guests Sarasin and Blacken’d Red.
The story begins for me with a three-hour public transit bus/train journey, which some may think is absolutely crazy, but to be honest this is not the longest I’ve endured to get to the rock show. I arrived in Hamilton and after a quick bite to eat headed over to the venue lobby where I sent a quick text to meet up with Roger Banks, drummer for opening band, Sarasin. The Sarasin self-titled album, originally released independently and recently issued under their new record deal with Pure Steel Records has been reviewed here on Decibel Geek and I’ve also done an interview with Roger, but this is to be my first live Sarasin experience. Roger appeared, casting a dark shadow over me. I by no means profess to be the shortest guy around, but I forgot just how tall this guy is! It was great to see him again and he invited me to join them for an after party at the show’s conclusion as I passed him some Decibel Geek shirts for the band and wished him a great show. Once inside the actual venue I secured a great vantage point up in the balcony with some friends.
“Please welcome Pure Steel recording artists, Sarasin“, came the announcement signifying the beginning of the show. I quickly recognized the keyboard thunder beginnings to one of my favorite songs from the Sarasin CD, “Enemy Within”. I captured both “Enemy Within” and the second song selection of “In Our Image” on video and the band sounded great from up here, but Michael Wilson‘s vocals were a little low and muffled. Perhaps this was due to the cold that he had been battling for several weeks that Roger told me about in the lobby. By the time Sarasin got through to their third track, “Soul In Vain”, Wilson‘s voice seemed to warm up (or there were some equipment adjustments) and had gotten louder and stronger. “Woken at Noon” was a song that I was unfamiliar with as it’s not on the aforementioned self-titled disc, but given that Sarasin has been around in some form or another for about 30 years themselves, with founding guitarist Greg Boileau remaining a constant, I’m sure there’s many Sarasin songs I’m unfamiliar with. “The Hammer” was next and is hands down my fave composition of the record and a song that has been in my gym playlist since I first heard it so many months ago. “The Hammer” sounded fantastic and I secured it on video as the boys really looked to be having the time of their lives up on stage, something that was easily evident even from up in the balcony section. The slower paced composition of “Live to See the Glory” followed and while not one of my “go to’s” I must admit it came off very well live. “Forevermore” ripped along leading us to what would be the final song of the set in “Wake Up”. As the very last song on Sarasin I never seem to give “Wake Up” much due/playtime, but wake up I did indeed and will be changing that! The barraging riffs of that final tune did a stellar job at beating the crowd into submission as cheers and applause escorted the boys off stage. So happy for these boys, being a supporter since before the deal with Pure Steel.
Sarasin photo gallery by Decibel Geek‘s Brian Ronald: Sarasin – Hamilton, Ontario
Interview – Sarasin Drummer Roger Banks Talks With The Meister / Album Review – Sarasin Album Review
The next act to grace the stage at Hamilton Place was a band called Blacken’d Red that I’d not previously heard of in what was being billed as their final performance. After a young lady introduced the band, confirming that after 8 years together this was to be Blacken’d Red‘s final show, the band flooded the stage. The cheers and applause from the crowd certainly gave evidence that many were familiar with these guys, but before they could even get going an issue with the guitar amp ground things to a halt. The technical complication was fixed quickly and Blacken’d Red launched into their first song which I’m gonna surmise was titled “Up All Night”. Before the song ended I was toe-tapping, head bobbing right along with the party feel of this band. “Nothing Wrong, Nothing Right” followed before frontman Iggy introduced the song that “started it all 8 years and two records ago”, but unfortunately I have no idea what the song was titled. One of my friends, clearly enjoying the set as well noted that Blacken’d Red exhibited a very Sunset Strip sound which seemed spot on to me. “Nothing to Lose” was followed by “Watch Me Die” and a song that I didn’t catch a title for, but captured on video. During the band intros, frontman Iggy pointed out what I believe he said was a 90-year-old lady named Rue down front and center, fantastic to see you rocking girl! A slower paced track took us to “Lies”, one of the last recorded Blacken’d Red songs we were told and then the show closer of “Wanted Man”. What a great set from Blacken’d Red, too bad they’re calling it quits and passing by the merch table confirmed my earlier suspicion that there were no CDs for sale. Based on some research during my telling account of this concert I was able to find very little information on Blacken’d Red and their website appears to be closed down, so please excuse any wrong song titles etc :).
Blacken’d Red photo gallery by Decibel Geek‘s Brian Ronald: Blacken’d Red – Hamilton, Ontario
30 years ago they came to rock and what they did on Friday, April 29, 2016, in Hamilton, Ontario was absolutely nothing short of sheer brilliance, they came to rock indeed! Returning to the scene of the crime so to speak Brighton Rock, who began life in Hamilton, Ontario 30 years ago, played live there for the first time in 24 years. The five Canadians who have a storied history with Decibel Geek (see the links below) launched right into “Young, Wild and Free”, the title track to the band’s debut full-length album celebrating the anniversary tonight. Instantly I was taken by the power, clarity and general strength of Gerry McGhee‘s vocals. I mean I’ve seen Brighton Rock several times since the 2012 reformation, but Gerry never ceases to capture me right away. Bassist Stevie Skreebs was a literal blur of motion and intensity, fully into each note thundering from his red guitar. I remember how excited my Decibel Geek cohort Wally Norton was when he held that very same bass guitar for a photo during the Brighton Rock podcast takeover a couple of years ago (link below). I was attempting to capture “Young, Wild and Free” on video when I realized that there was a camera malfunction. Again it failed during the second song, “Barricade”, which saw the crowd singing along to this song that always comes off so excellently in a live concert. Next Brighton Rock kept with the Young, Wild and Free album for “Save Me”, which we were told was the first time played live in 25 years! Guitarist Greg Fraser was ripping on each and every song as we heard “Hangin’ High n’ Dry” and “Outlaw” from the sophomore album, Take a Deep Breath before going back to the debut with “Assault Attack”. The Love Machine album began it’s representation in the setlist with “Hollywood Shuffle” as Gerry recalled that the last Brighton Rock show in Hamilton would have been in 1992 when the band was touring this album. “Can’t Wait for the Night” and “Can’t Stop the Earth from Shaking” came next and during the latter I’m pretty sure that I saw motion blur Skreebs gently toss a guitar pic to Rue still in the front row. “Shooting for Love” preceded a personal Brighton Rock fave in “Jack is Back” which saw Gerry make use of the whole stage area afforded him wearing an eye mask. Riding high on hearing “Jack is Back” and marveling at how great these five guys sound in a live setting, my absolute top choice on Brighton Rock songs came now in “Nightstalker”. Also, it turns out (actually I already knew….lol) that this is also Gerry McGhee‘s favorite song as he introduced it with “In continuing with my serial killer obsession…” or something along those lines. Finally, my camera decided to co-operate and out of the Sarasin, Blacken’d Red and previous Brighton Rock videos I tried to capture, “Nightstalker” would be the only one that survived and is seen below courtesy of the Decibel Geek YouTube channel. The guys called up Sarasin guitarist Greg Boileau to join them on stage for the next tune. Boileau was actually a touring member of Brighton Rock during Johnny Rogers‘ absence for the Love Machine album/tour. After announcing that it was Boileau‘s 65th birthday today, which shocked me since I’ve met the guy and I would have put him around 10 years younger (turns out I was correct and it was a good natured joke), they charged through another blistering tune in “Power Overload”. Sarasin vocalist Michael Wilson could be seen at the front of the stage performing his best Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” bow at Greg Boileau‘s feet during “Power Overload”. Now it was “time for a love song, a ballad if you will” Gerry informed us as Greg Fraser shredded out the intro to “Bulletproof” and Brighton Rock destroyed the venue with their heaviest song, drummer Mark Cavarzan literally pounding his kit. “We Came to Rock” shut down the regular set, the crowd screaming and applauding their appreciation all the way. After a short stage break the guys returned for an encore presentation that included “One More Try” and a cover of AC/DC‘s “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, in which Gerry certainly did way better than Axl Rose could ever dream of. The face-wide smiles displayed by the band during the final moments (actually the whole event) proves that these guys really enjoy being on stage and I was grinning ear to ear as I filed out into the lobby. I bumped into Stevie Skeebs as I came out into the lobby for a quick moment of chat to cap off a fantastic night with great friends and what I would say is Canada’s most underrated band. How these guys never made a bigger splash south of the border is beyond me (check out the interview link below for more info on that from Gerry).
The day after the show Gerry McGhee posted a status on his Facebook page that beautifully sums up the night: “Wow …… Still on cloud nine after 24 years to play our hometown, set an attendance record at the theatre and a new record for alcohol sales lol. Like we are surprised lol. One thing for sure Hamilton, you fuckin’ rock great seeing old friends and new ones and spending time with Bob Roper the man who believed in us and started our career with WEA. Special thanks to our bruthas in rock BlackenD Red and Sarasin especially Jack Rogers for making it all happen….highlight of the night Stevie sporting the 6 pack at 54 next to Nikki Sixx the coolest fucking bass player in the world … Thank you again Hamilton, I am speechless God bless.”
Special thanks to Core Entertainment for allowing Decibel Geek to cover this truly magical night.
Brighton Rock photo gallery by Decibel Geek‘s Brian Ronald (also appears below): Brighton Rock 30th Anniversary
Live Concert Photos: Decibel Geek‘s Brian Ronald